Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Stop Changing the Rules

I had a friend growing up that cheated at everything he did in order to gain the advantage over others. He loved to make up some new rule or scoring procedure for every game we played, including baseball, football, poker, and monopoly. Unfortunately, he found out the hard way that life does not allow people to take such liberties and he is now serving time for just such behavior in his adult life, if you know what I mean!

In many respects, I think there are parallels to my friend's story and the debacle of public school testing and assessment. For awhile, I have disparaged the concept of assessment in our schools, and I loathe at the macho, political verbosity of our elected leaders- and others- that cry for more of it to satisfy some inner ambition to foster competition in our schools, our children, and our "way of life"!

This morning in Florida, the state is reeling from the release of the state's FCAT writing scores. The revised grading system was more rigorous than previous years and the results were a blow to the schools, the administrators, teachers, students, and parents of Florida as many below-acceptable scores were released. Schools that have been struggling to improve under the former scoring systems and beginning to make progress were thrown for a huge blow to their progress. All in the name of "Every Child Left Behind" and Racing to the Bottom.

The same thing happened in New York State last year, when the gurus of state testing, under the continual cattle prod of a maniacal governor- were told to make the assessments more critical and more rigorous in scoring, under the false premise to make it harder for people to pass, only to throw the state's testing model into a tailspin. Cries of "foul", and "revert to the other model", or "throw the tests away" were raised there as well, as they are throughout the state of Florida this morning.

And still, I think about the lonely classroom teacher that is struggling to help and excite a handful of struggling readers and doing everything she can to inspire them to keep trying, only to to realize she is a pawn in a greater chess game than we will ever know.

Someone keeps changing the rules to the game. And what we learn from my friend, who did that throughout his life, people are held accountable for that kind of behavior.

By the way, it's time to send him another birthday card since he will be spending another anniversary away from his family in a jail cell out west!